Chan Newsletter

When The Mind is at One Point

When The Mind Is At One Point, There Is Nothing That Cannot Be Accomplished

Questions and answers between Master Ling Yuan (Master Sheng-yen’s master) and Master Xuyun in a seven day winter retreat,1947.

Grand master (Xuyun) asked me (Ling Yuan): “What method are you using?” I (Ling Yuan) said: “Reciting Buddha’s name and investigating Ch’an. Both Ch’an and Pure Land are practiced.”

Question: ” How can you be investigating Ch’an when you are reciting Buddha’s name?” I said: “When I recite the Buddha’s name, there is this doubt of who is reciting Buddha’s name hidden in my consciousness. So even though I’m reciting Buddha’s name, I’m also investigating Ch’an.”

Question: “Are there wandering thoughts or not?” Answer: “When the right thought(method) are brought forth, often wandering thoughts are there along with it. However, when the right thought is put down neither are there wondering thoughts, pure and at ease.”

Grand master said: “This pure and at ease state is laziness, (You’re already off the method.) like a rock soaking in cold water. If one is like this, even if he practice for one thousand years it is still useless. One must bring forth the right thought with a bold and persevering mind investigating till the end and really see through just who is reciting the Buddha’s name. Only then can the investigation be shattered. You should really practice with great determination.”

Question: “I have heard that grandmaster had entered samadhi for eighteen days in Chung Nan Mountain, was there a mind to enter? or no mind to enter?” Answer: “If there is a mind to enter samadhi then one cannot be in samadhi. If there’s no mind to enter samadhi then it’s like a statue made out of wood or mud. When the mind is at one point, there’s not a thing that cannot be accomplished.”

Question: “I want to be like grand master and enter samadhi, please teach me.” Answer: “Then you must watch the Hua to.”

Question: “What do you call this Hua to?” Answer: “Hua is actually a wandering thought. You’re actually talking to yourself. Before the wandering thoughts arise, one must illuminate on them. Look to see just what is the original face? This is called looking at Hua to. If the wandering thoughts have already arisen, you must still bring forth the right thought so the evil thoughts will perish by itself. If one goes around with the wandering thoughts, then sitting meditation is useless. However if one bring forth this right thought and its not serious or firm enough, then the Hua to is powerless and wandering thoughts will surely arise. When practicing, one needs to have a bold and persevering mind similar to the situation when your parents have died.(and you have countless things that you have to do.) The ancient ones said: “It’s like guarding the emperor’s palace; closely guarding on the top of the palace wall,” or “If you haven’t endured the bone chilling winter, how do you expect to smell the scent of plum blossoms.” (These words are always said by the grand master in seven day retreats.) If there are neither wondering thoughts nor the Hua to, then sitting there with an empty mind is like a rock soaking in cold water. One can sit until the innumerable Kalpa and still be useless. If you want to investigate Ch’an, then this is the only way. If you don’t want to do it this way then don’t investigate Ch’an. One has to have this bold and persevering mind, like one person fighting off ten thousand people; going straight forward without regressing and letting loose. Reciting Buddha’s name should be like this, reciting mantras should be like this. The mind of birth and death is firm and determined, day by day increasing. If one can be like this, the practice will progress.

(The above article is a dialogue between my master, Master Ling Yuan and his grand master, Master Xuyun. It was recorded down by Master Ling Yuan as “The Elder Grand master’s Dharma Discourses” in the Chinese book “The Collection of Master Xuyun’s Dharma Talks,” pages 177 to 178.)

Category: Chan Newsletter